Body Shame

On Friday I had a conversation with a doctor that left me feeling upset and ashamed about my weight. A part of my recovery from 15+ years of struggling the an eating disorder has been that I am much calmer when I do not focus on numbers. I do not weigh myself and I tell medical assistants that I don’t want to know my weight when I have an appointment. I have taken control of my experience of feeling judged and misunderstood by doctors by emailing them before hand to remind them of my boundaries around discussion of my weight and that I have done years of healing and am still in the process of constantly learning how to have a better relationship with my body.

I honestly do not need their generic 2 cents and have already heard their concerns and recommendations. I have found that many doctors and therapists have very little training on how to work effectively with those of us recovering from eating disorders.

This Friday conversation was an informative phone call about a tubal ligation surgery and I didn’t expect that my weight would be a factor, but the surgeon said that I am at an increased risk for complications due to being overweight. She said, “Since you weigh ___ pounds, I think you might want to reconsider any unnecessary surgeries.”

So I was hit with the actual number of my weight for the first time in years, and then also felt shamed and judged by the tone/disdain in her voice. Like how dare I be overweight and want a surgery to end my fertility? When I asked what her actual concerns were, she said, “It can be harder to find your airway and harder to navigate around your organs when you are overweight, as compared to normal sized people.”

I understand that she is just doing her job and giving me information. This information happened to be surprising to me and broke a protective layer that I had created to keep myself stabilized in not fixating on numbers and how they trigger feelings about my weight.

I’m not saying my strategy was a perfect one, but it was something that was allowing me to feel peaceful. I really value peace. I also understand that hospitals and doctors appointments aren’t usually created in a way that can accommodate sensitivity or feelings, so I’ve tried to learn how to adapt so that I can participate in a way that is less traumatic for me. Bringing a friend with me helps a lot!

What happened on Friday took me several hours to calm down from. Also last week I saw 3 different photos of myself (2 on social media and 1 via email) that I felt horrified by, absolutely hating the way that I looked in all 3 of them. When this happens I try to just delete or remove the pictures as fast as possible and not look too closely. It still triggers my heart to pound and I have the fight/flight anxiety response that takes a few hours to calm down from. It’s humbling to experience that even after decades of healing work, and it sometimes feels next to impossible for me to look at my body with approval, love, or peace.

I mostly live a functional life on top of this experience. I feel all my feelings and still wear bathing suits in public, show my arms on hot days, and show up anyway to parties even when I feel hideously unattractive. I work hard at finding as much love, acceptance, peace, and joy in my body as I can in every moment. It’s not easy, and it honestly hasn’t really gotten much easier over the years, but I have gotten stronger and more courageous at not letting it stop me. I’ll use every trick that I can get my hands on to help myself focus on living my life more fully instead of hiding my body and feeling ashamed.

This week, finally, after years and years, I felt something snap inside me. I am so tired of the efforts I’ve been making to not see myself or focus only on specific parts of my body that I find more tolerable. My friend Scott helped me with the idea of letting myself off the hook for not having achieved ‘loving my body no matter what.’ I don’t know if it’s possible for me in this lifetime to feel that way and I also don’t know for sure that it’s not.

I do know that I’m done being complicit in the shame I think I’m supposed to feel for having the nerve to be a fat woman and live my life without apologizing about it. I’m done responding to projections about my health and what my body shape means about me and the choices I make or the strength/willpower I have. I am done trying to stay 2 steps ahead of an anyone that might make a comment that might hurt my feelings. I can’t say that I know what my new reality will be, but I am done with a lot of things that I thought were protecting me, but actually aren’t.

Today I am able to look at these photos and actually see them. I see my fat body. I see my multiple chins, a big belly and wide curves from angles that I don’t normally see myself from. I also see that I am smiling and enjoying being alive and having connections and experiences with other imperfect people that are beautiful in their imperfections. I know that this is what I actually look like and everyone else sees me this way all the time.

It’s still hard for me, but I can accept the truth of what I look like in these pictures and not hide from it. I think that is a better, more mature choice for me at this time. It’s another layer of healing happening and a deeper level of compassion and self love coming through.

I want all of my attention, energy, and focus available to me in the present moment. I am tired of living on top of having a negative experience in my body, and I don’t know what living next to my body and holding its hand will be like, but I’m going to try it out.

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